News Articles

Graham, Truett, Lee, Criswell among 20th century’s greatest preachers

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Four well-known Southern Baptist ministers have been named among the greatest preachers in the 20th century, according to rankings releasing by “Preaching,” a non-denominational magazine.

Billy Graham was the lone Southern Baptist to make the first tier of top 10 preachers, ranking second.

The second tier of preachers included former First Baptist Dallas pastor George W. Truett; R.G. Lee, former longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.; and W.A. Criswell, pastor emeritus of FBC Dallas.

The list of preachers was created based on rankings by the magazine’s board of contributing editors after reviewing nominations from Preaching’s readers.

The number one ranking was given to the late James S. Stewart, a Scottish preacher and New Testament professor who served a two-year term in the 1960s as moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

“I was surprised that James Stewart was the number one name,” said Michael Duduit, editor of the magazine. “He was clearly a major figure in the century, but I would have guessed Billy Graham or Martin Luther King Jr.”

Duduit, who also serves as executive vice president at Union University, a Baptist-related college in Jackson, Tenn., said there was quite a bit of interest in ranking the century’s greatest preachers.

“I thought it was interesting to me that our readers took a longer-term look at their selections,” Duduit said. “There weren’t many names from the 1980s or 1990s. The emphasis was on preachers from the earlier to mid-century who made a profound impact and brought us where we are today.”

The preachers were selected based on their influence on church and society and on their fellow preachers, Duduit said.

The top five preachers were Stewart; Graham; the late George Buttrick, an English-born Congregational preacher; civil rights leader King; and the late Harry Emerson Fosdick, a pastor of New York’s Riverside Church.

The rest of the top 10 are the late G. Campbell Morgan; the late William Edwin Sangster; John R.W. Stott; the late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; and the late Clarence Macartney.

The second 10 are Leslie Weatherhead; Truett; Lee; Norman Vincent Peale; Peter Marshall; E. Stanley Jones; Donald Grey Barnhouse; Ralph Stockman; Criswell; and Gardner C. Taylor.

Preaching is an evangelical professional journal for ministers. Duduit estimated that Baptists comprise one-third of its readership.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes